Northern Diamonds are delighted to announce that eight players have been awarded full-time contracts for the 2022 season.

Bess Heath, Sterre Kalis, Katie Levick and Rachel Slater have been awarded their first full-time contracts whilst Hollie Armitage, Jenny Gunn, Beth Langston and Linsey Smith have been retained heading into next season.

Bowler Phoebe Graham and batter Ami Campbell have opted to sign for Thunder and Central Sparks respectively. Everyone at Northern Diamonds would like to wish them all the best with their future careers.

Following a very successful season for Northern Diamonds, and for women’s cricket in England generally, the increase in contracts heading into next summer is another huge step forward for the game. The ECB have increased their funding to cover six full-time professionals, whilst the Yorkshire County Cricket Club have invested in a further two professional players.

The Northern Diamonds will be planning to build on their 2021 performances that saw them reach two finals in the regional competitions.

Northern Diamonds Director of Cricket James Carr commented on the announcement: “It’s really good of the ECB to continue to support us and gradually uplift the contracts year on year. The additional support from Yorkshire County Cricket Club as the regional host has taken us from six to eight full-time contracts, will allow us to continue to have that competitive edge and show that professional cricket for women is a viable career.

“We’ve had two hugely successful years but have fallen slightly short at the final hurdle and I think the additional contracts will allow us to put a bit more attention to detail that can take us one step further.

“The whole squad have almost been full-time because of Covid, so even the pay-as-you-play players have been able to access more of training. I think the upward trajectory of the women’s game has maybe been steeper than maybe anticipated because of this. Being able to offer a woman a salary so that they can commit their working-week to the game pays massive dividends alongside the holistic support.”

2021 has seen the Diamonds play at some of the finest venues in the country in both the regional competitions and for many of the players during The Hundred, as well as entertaining increasing volumes of supporters.

“It’s really special for them,” commented Carr. “All we’ve seen for the last 18 months is huge growth in these players, both as cricketers and people. The opportunity for them to play at Emerald Headingley, Lord’s and all the other First-Class ground is really special. I think it gives a statement to the players that they are valued and shows them their worth as cricketers. Ultimately whatever level of sport you play, if it’s not a memorable experience, people will stop playing. I think that is just as important at the top level as it is at grassroots.”

The coronavirus has prevented the Diamonds squad from making in-person player appearances over the past two seasons, something that Carr is hopeful can return in 2023 in order to assist in their mission to inspire the next generation. However, the increased digital coverage has offered the team a platform to engage with future Diamonds.

“The players are absolutely pioneers with the amount of media coverage digitally the domestic game gets and what the Hundred and international cricket gets from TV and media, it’s massive,” said Carr. “You can’t be what you can’t see, and we’ve seen it in other sports where they’ve really pushed women’s sport that they’ve flourished. The upward trend is exciting and providing we put the right practices in place it will only continue to get better.”

Preparations for the 2022 season are due to get underway from Monday 15 November when the Diamonds return from a well-deserved break.

“The girls are recharging their batteries right now and will get back to basics mid-November, slowly increasing their time on task,” Carr said. There will be a lot of batting and fitness work pre-Christmas, before the bowling ramps up in the new year. We will be building on the foundations of last year, looking to be even more explosive with the bat, tighter with the ball and the fitness around that.”

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